From the Archives: The 50 Year Member: Part Two - What Come You Here To Do?
by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM
The 50 year member was sitting in his seat in the lodge room waiting for lodge to open. He had a nice dinner and conversation with his Brethren and was in a good mood as the younger guys sat the room up so they could open lodge.
As the 50 year member was sitting there Pudge walked into the room and sat next to him. Pudge was quiet also but he had a worried look on his face.
“How’s it going Pudge?” the 50 year member asked. “It looks like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.” Pudge smiles and says “It isn’t that bad. I just have to make a decision to make and I am not sure which way to go.” The 50 year member felt for the young man. Recently Pudge had been coming to his house and helping him learn the computer and access the internet. He and Pudge had very little in common except Masonry. There was a difference of 50 years in their ages and their world views was so far apart but with even with all the differences between them there was a friendship that had began to build between them with all the time they were spending together.
“The night I was raised a few months ago I was presented with several petitions for other Masonic organizations.” Pudge said “I keep telling the Brothers I’m thinking about it but I’m not sure if I am ready to join anything else.” The old man smiled. He could remember the same thing happening to him when he joined so many years ago. Back then it was common to join other Masonic organizations after becoming a Master Mason. Lodges were so busy back then sometimes you couldn’t become an officer of the lodge for several years after joining because there was a line of men waiting to go through the chairs. Heck, sometimes there was a last minute scramble to find enough chairs to accommodate all the Brethren who wanted to attend degree work! Over the years The 50 year member had sit in the East of several bodies and was an officer of the local Scottish Rite valley before he was able to take his turn in the Oriental chair of the lodge.
All that changed in the late 70’s as some of the older members passed away. The numbers attending meetings got smaller and it became normal for men to go through the chairs two or three times. Our sons weren’t interested in Masonry because of their counter culture and never joined so all of the Brethren got older and every year the numbers attending meetings continued to dwindle.
Not only did the number of members in lodge get smaller but they also did in the other Masonic bodies. Since then each new member became fodder to keep their bodies alive.
One of the younger men he knew was an dais officer in all three York Rite bodies and an officer of his lodge. This Brother was constantly trying to learn multiple pieces of ritual at the same time while trying to work and spend time with his family. Several times he had heard this younger Brother talking about this issue. He wanted to step down from several positions but hesitated because if he quit there was a chance that the bodies wouldn’t be able to open because they wouldn’t have enough members to open.
“Let me ask you a question Pudge.” The 50 year member said “When you came into lodge you were asked What come you here to do.” “What did you want to get out of Masonry?” “Well, I wanted to belong to something bigger than myself. I wanted to help other people and become a better person.” Pudge said “Do you think you can achieve that by joining these other groups?” The 50 year member asked. “Each one of these groups has a charity and each one helps a lot of people.” Pudge replied “But if I get wrapped up in all these charities I will feel good helping people but I’m not sure I would be helping myself.” “That is true Brother” The 50 year member replied. “Helping people is a virtue and is truly laudable but as they say charity begins at home. If you aren’t working on your own ashlar first you won’t be able to give your full potential to these other endeavors.”
“Let me ask you a question Pudge.” The 50 year member said “What do you think is Freemasonry’s greatest charity?” Pudge started thinking “We have so many great charities. The CHIP program, scholarships for kids, we clean up highways. It’s hard to pick just one.” The old man smiled “You are right Brother. Each one of these things are beneficial to the public and shows the outside world that we are great men and encourages other great men to join us, but you are missing our greatest charity.” Pudge looked perplexed “I know we have more but I don’t know which you are thinking about”. The 50 year member replied “Masonic charity my Brother, is our greatest charity but sadly no one thinks about it these days. I’m afraid helping out a Brother doesn’t get us headlines in the newspaper.”
The 50 year member continued “Masonic charity has been a pillar in our fraternity since time in memorial. There are countless stories on how a man would risk his life to help a Brother who was in harm’s way. It knows no boundaries of state or country.
It also extends to our widows and orphans. We play lip service to them in our opening and closings but what do we really do to help them? Back in the days before we had a Masonic retirement home we would make sure these poor souls had plenty of food and fuel to keep them warm. These days we have a dinner for them once a year, what about the other 364 days? Maybe they would just like to have a visit and let them know we are thinking about them.”
Pudge got silent. By the look on his face you could see he was taken aback. “I never thought about taking care of our own as a charity.” Pudge said “I guess I have a lot to learn about Freemasonry.” The old man smiled “Brother we never stop learning. Even an old codger like me will never know everything about our Craft that I should know. But this should answer your question. How can you be of service to the other bodies if you haven’t learned as much about the Blue lodge as you can first?” The old man continued “I suggest you spend at least one year learning about your lodge, learn the ritual, maybe take an office read as much as you can about your fraternity. Bring in new members and help them on their journey and make your lodge stronger THEN consider joining another body. Not only will the lodge be better off but you will be better prepared for the groups you will be joining. Just remember Masonry is a journey, not a footrace. You have until you meet the Grand Architect of the Universe to accomplish all these things.”
Pudge smiled “Thank you Brother. You really took a load off my shoulders. This really helps me with my decision.” “You’re welcome” the 50 year member said. “You knew the right answer all along but sometimes it helps to hear someone else tell you what you already know.”
Bill Hosler was raised in 2002 in Three Rivers lodge #733 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He served as master of the lodge in 2007 and was a member of the Internet committee for the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM. Bill is currently a member of Roff lodge #169 in Roff, Oklahoma and Lebanon lodge #837 in Frisco, Texas he is also a 32° Scottish Rite Mason within the Fort Wayne, Indiana Valley AASR NMJ. Bill has also served as High priest of Fort Wayne Chapter #19 Royal Arch masons and Commander of Fort Wayne Commandery #4 Knights Templar and the Webmaster and magazine editor for Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne, Indiana.